This letter and accompanying material must be read in the context of two related letters published here (11/18/22) and here (1/20/23). After the second letter was published Behnaz Amani was released from prison; our letter was used in support of this life-saving action. The participants have asked that I publish this new material. Our previous letters were written poets to poets, as is this one. Listen please to Behnaz Amani’s voice here and in the previous post. We are not talking about multitudes: we address the precarious situation of this one person, who cannot be conflated with anyone else and who is, above all, indispensable. ––Ch.B.
Several months ago a group of American poets signed a letter in solidarity with jailed Iranian poets. In the meantime, the Iranian Writers Action Committee, a new organization, has been set up by Iranians outside the country. They have compiled an extensive list of writers who are in danger. You will find Behnaz Amani on this list. Our initial letter was not designed to get media attention in the U.S.
As American poets who have committed our lives to free expression, we are devastated by the attacks on our fellow poets and writers in Iran. While the horrific news of the attacks of women and girls, and indeed on men and boys, has been publicized, the attacks on these Iranian poets and writers has not been fully reported. We are grateful to poet and activist Sepideh Jodeyri for sending us this long list, compiled by an Iranian poet. Chillingly long. We call out to these poets and writers: we see you, we care, we stand with you, we want to read your future works. Poetry matters — in the U.S. and in Iran. The imprisonment of these Iranian literary artists is an attack on all of us.
Atefeh Chaharmahalian (poet, a member of the board of committee of Iran’s Writers Association, and social activist) / arrested by security forces in Tehran on October 3, 2022 and is being held in Ward 209 of the notorious Evin Prison. She has been denied the right to have a lawyer and her bail request has been rejected. She has been reported to be under pressure for forced confessions, causing considerable worries about her well-being.
The struggle for freedom continues in Iran, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was murdered by the Iranian state for violating a mandatory dress code for woman. Last week, activist and poet Sepideh Jodeyri asked me to make a video for her friends in Iran and around the world; she posted this on IG and Twitter. I am grateful for the work she and Shahrzad F. Shams are doing in this difficult time, where hope is mixed with dread.
Adapted, with permission, from a recent letter by Omid Shams, which first alerted me to this work. Omid Shams is an Iranian poet, translator, and scholar living in Aarhus, Denmark. —Ch.B.
Iranian modern literature, specifically poetry, has always been connected to the revolutionary politics. However, such a connection can be traced mostly in the content and theme rather than the form and language; or, as the opposite of what Bruce Andrews said, it has been the entry of politics into the poetry. Such an approach toward the political poetry created a literary mainstream that turned the main body of literature into a batch of sociopolitical slogans.
British poet Basil Bunting was part of the plot engineered by the CIA, MI6 and Anglo Oil to depose Prime Minister (of Iran) Mossadeq, whose administration, as Wikipedia says, “introduced a wide range of social reforms but is most notable for its nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC/AIOC) (later British Petroleum or BP).” They go on to say that Mossadeq “was removed from power in a coup on 19 August 1953, organised and carried out by the United States CIA at the request of the British MI6.” So